Create on Cue: 4 Tips to Reduce Beading Stress

If you look at my current resume, there isn’t a section called Rewards. No presidential citations or even an “Employee of the Month” award. I’d put them on there if I had any . . . Well, I guess in the sexist 1970s the high school band voted me “Best Legs”, but I’m not sure that would add to my credentials. And, quite frankly, the “best” part of my hail-damaged legs anymore is that they get me from Point A to Point B!

Meet Beadwork's Designers of the Year

So I have to admit I was thrilled when Marlene Blessing gave me this credit to add to my curriculum vitae: I’m one of Beadwork magazine’s Designer of the Year for 2009. What an honor! And to be in the company of Marcia DeCoster, Jamie Hogsett, and Lisa Kan? Humbling. I can predict right now what this year-long addition to the magazine will bring: Marcia will always offer astounding projects that defy what we know about color and shape in beadweaving; Jamie will make haute couture statements that not only involve beads, but other surprise elements; and Lisa will tend to blow our socks off with romantic picot flourishes and beaded embellishments. I just received the February/March issue and I’ll have to say I’m excited–not only about the D.O.Y. projects, but about the rest of the issue, too. It’s filled with gorgeous pieces that I’d love to make.  (Take a look at the four photos of the D.O.Y projects from this issue and I bet you'll agree with me.)

The Downside:  The Pressure to Perform

The downside to standing in the ranks of such pros is the pressure. I usually perform well under pressure, but being creative on cue can be hit or miss with me. We’ve all experienced this, whether it’s making a deadline for a magazine submission, a contest like Bead Star or the Bead Arts Awards, or coming up with a last-minute jewelry design for a birthday gift. So I’ve given myself four rules to follow to help me through my anxiety as I design my six D.O.Y. pieces this year. Maybe they’ll help you, too?

4 Tips to Reduce Beading Stress

1. Do what you do best. If you’re running against the clock to make a piece, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Use the techniques and materials you’re known for. You’ll feel more relaxed when designing and you’ll be able to build on some of the creative work you’ve done in the past to make your new piece. Save those artistic experiments for when you have more time.

2. Use seasonal colors. Color can often pose a real stress for many of us beaders, me definitely included. If you’re in this camp and you’re in a rush to make a brand-new piece, don’t add color to your stress list. Simply surf the internet for the latest color trends. Pantone’s site, for instance, offers samplings of the hottest design colors.

3. Give yourself an assignment. When sitting down at your worktable to start a piece, give yourself 3 choices: necklace, bracelet, or earrings. Even if you begin making a bracelet and it turns into a necklace, you’ll still have started somewhere, which is better than spending time flustered about what you might make.

4. Make “sketches” with beads. Use your stash as a painter uses a paint palette: lay out various beads, wire, thread, and findings next to one another before you bring out any tools. This way you’ll have a firm sense of the materials you’ll use, and the colors and shapes can gently guide your design. Doing this will also reduce any panic-stricken runs to the bead shop!

Do you have some techniques that have worked for deadline beading? Share them on the website. Trust me–I could use them!  

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks! 

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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

15 thoughts on “Create on Cue: 4 Tips to Reduce Beading Stress

  1. Jean,
    When I run into a creative road block, I first look back at the pieces I’ve already made. It reminds me that I AM capable of beautiful (and BeadStar winning) designs. If that doesn’t jump start the juices, I re-make a favorite piece. By the end of these two steps, I’ve conjured up enough new ideas to get going.
    Jennifer Cunningham,

  2. All of that is excellent advice. But what I really wrote to say was how beautiful your Ombre Choker is. It caught my eye in the magazine. So unusual, and the color palette is gorgeous. In terms of color inspiration, lately I have been taking cues from Margie Deeb’s book, The Beaders Color Palette. In it she translates photographs from nature, works of art, etc. into beading colors. Also, I go to Fusion Beads’ website and visit the color gallery. So I’ve been writing color combos down in a notebook, and when I need inspiration, I choose one of those to work with.

  3. Don’t skimp on the stringing medium (wire, thread …).. When it’s time to do the switchbacks at the clasp, having something substantial to hang onto is invaluable. The added bonus is that a choker can be made into a princess length necklace or a more involved bracelet.

  4. i resent deadlines. i’m retired. i put in a movie or watch CSI and bead away. my biggest handicap is the feeling that i should be cleaning something instead of beading. i have to remind myself that this is my “job” and i keep on beading.

  5. I try to do two things to reduce deadline pressure. First, I periodically organize color palettes, putting together in the same storage box all the beads I think would produce a great end product. This way, I don’t have to scrounge around at the last minute. Second, I try to keep two projects going all the time. This helps me greatly, because I tend to “grow” designs instead to creating them at one sitting. With two projects going that I have been looking at for a few days, I usually find that I can finish one quite quickly.

  6. Your “Four Tips” are great! If I may add a few extra tips of my own –

    1.) If the item is for a gift, I try to think of what type of clothes that person wears. Colors, styles, etc., help me to determine the appropriate piece to create to coordinate with her wardrobe. If I know she just bought a new outfit, for example, I try to create a set that will go with it. There’s nothing like the personal touch.

    2.) I also watch my friends when we go shopping or attend a craft fair. When I see them look and admire a piece of jewelry, that also helps me to get an idea of what to create for them.

    3.) I keep a directory of jewelry photos on my PC. This directory is titled, “Ideas”. When I see an item online from a catalog website or even an artist’s website that really strikes my eye, I copy it to this directory. These pieces offer me inspiration when I need to get out of my creativity rut.

  7. Just wondered if it would be possible to mention on the pay for pattern pictures if they had been previously published. I have quit ordering them because I already have them in one of the numerous bead magazines to which I subscribe. Perhaps others have better memories but I would find it a help/ Thanks. Ann

  8. Hi Ann,

    In the store, if you look in the “project details” part of the page it will say “originally published in” with the magazine name and date.


  9. Talk about an awesome topic! I’m entering the final week leading up to my deadline for submitting about 20 bead-weaving projects to my publisher for an upcoming book. As you can imagine, I’ve been feeling a bit stressed.

    Jean, I agree 100% with all of your tips. Here are three more that come to mind:

    1. Instead of aiming for perfection, or even near perfection, aim for discovery – even though you have a deadline. When you sit down to work on a new design, don’t promise yourself that “this has to be the one” – the final design that you will submit. Allow yourself to make minor mistakes, or even change techniques part-way through. Don’t stitch up a final version until you’ve had a fair chance to experiment. Then, use the results of that experimentation to finalize your design. At that point you’ll be able to relax and enjoy beading.

    2. Be open to starting over. If you’re feeling frustrated trying to get something to work, stop and ask yourself whether it’s time to start over with a new thread, and eliminate whatever it is that’s giving you trouble. When you’re working under a deadline, you sometimes need to abandon the more-complicated techniques and adopt simplified versions of them instead.

    3. Don’t let yourself panic. This is especially important when you do make the decision to start over (see Tip 2 above). I’ve found myself thinking “Now what? Six hours of beading, and I have nothing!” However, I usually have discovered some good ideas that, when simplified, end up working well – I just don’t realize it yet because I’m starting to panic. In times like those, I guarantee that if you take a walk, get some tea, or do some yoga, you’ll be able to come back and make your design work in less time than it would take in that dreaded panic mode.

    Speaking of which, I’d better get back to work! Wish me luck. 🙂


  10. First, let me say, that I love Beading Daily! I have every one of them saved in a file on my computer. I refer back to them frequently for ideas and problem areas.
    My biggest stumbling block when designing a special project is starting. I think about it and have design ideas floating around, but can’t seem to find that block of time to start. So I started thinking about the NIKE slogan “just do it!” and decided that even if I could allot only 30 minutes, I would start. It is amazing how much you can accomplish in 30 minutes. Usually, I will have the piece all laid out with plans then to invest another 30 to 60 minutes to assemble it.

  11. I have the opposite problem to Patricia – I am very good at starting things but very bad at finishing them, and even worse at writing them up for projects or workshops. I find designing easier if I have some constraints – a colour, a style, a stitch, a skill level, beads from a particular supplier – if I have complete ‘free rein’ then I am paralysed like a rabbit in headlights, staring at my bead stash and unable even to pick up a needle, let alone decide which beads to stitch together with it! The usual answer is to go back to one of my abandoned UFOs and start work on it, to get the ideas flowing again, or to get out my box of lampwork beads and go through them until some of them start to speak to me. So far that’s always worked…

  12. I like to flick through other people’s designs on the interenet or in magazines. It usually triggers several ideas. But I never end up with a copy! My brain always heads off at a tangent!

  13. If I get an idea for a piece of jewelry, I put a couple of the beads and findings aside in a small clear bag. Sometimes this will happen when I’m busy working on an existing piece. If I put a few materials aside when it “comes to me”, then I will remember what I wanted to make later. This way I have several projects that I can make at any given time. Actually, right now, I have more than several ready and waiting for me.
    I also like the color & insiration galleries at, and I don’t like to copy designs but we all know that it helps to see what others are creating.

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